The Best Meat and Dairy Alternatives (all your old recipes need not change)

What an incredible time to be vegan.  My goodness, when I was a vegetarian fresh out on my own there was some weird hotdog/Alpo thing in a can.  That was it.  I ate a lot of burritos and spaghetti.  I learned to be creative and have always loved spices and sauces.  Now that I can add delicious plant based alternatives to dairy and meat into my cooking, my guests, and especially my husband, are always pleasantly surprised and satisfied.  It opens up a lot of opportunities for trying to recipes and expanding dinner options.  And it adds a lot more fun in the kitchen.  I don’t particularly love meat but I do enjoy the added textures and creaminess from some of the animal product alternatives now available.  It also allows us to keep our old tried and true and family recipes because we can just sub out what we need.  Food makes memories, brings people together, and creates comfort.  I have no desire to harm animals (and I am sure you don’t either) and I know that near 100% of ailments can be reversed and prevented with a plant based diet.  We won’t even go into the ecological, economical, and karma benefits.  So, here’s what’s out there!

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English muffin pizzas with Miyoko’s mozzarella, orange peppers, and olives with Caesar salad. (Try Daiya Caesar dressing)

Best Dairy Alternatives

“But I LOVE cheese,” um, everyone says.  Scientific fact that cheese affects the brain the very same as heroin.  Truth.  So, we are all actually addicted to cheese.  There are some companies coming to our rehab rescue.

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Rustic Alpine “cheese” wrapped in pie crust and baked like Brie.  Topped with homemade peach jam and served with crackers and a glass of wine….oh my.

Miyoko’s has many different varieties of cheese.  She has rounds of cheese platter ready cheese, like Rustic Alpine, Smoky Cheddar, and Truffle.  She has cheese spread.  And I love them all, whether I get them from the store or online, but what I really love is her butter.  Oh my, it tastes like the real deal.  Cooks the same, spreads the same, and it’s healthy.  No weird ingredients in any of her products.  Cashews and other delicious ingredients are fermented just like dairy to get the taste.

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Fresh popped popcorn drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with truffle salt, basil, nutritional yeast and Violife parmesan.

Violife is…I have no words….so damn realistic, you could fool a cheese maker.  No kidding.  (I was a cheese maker.)  Made from pea protein and other delicious ingredients, you cannot go wrong. The new cheeses do not have that weird rubber aftertaste and they melt.  Try the cheddar or provolone slices.  Make a grilled cheese on sourdough and spray the outside of the bread lightly with olive oil spray and then top with shredded parmesan.  Fry.  The best grilled cheese ever.  Their parmesan is our favorite.  I sneak it around in my purse when we go to restaurants.

And I can’t forget Kite Hill!  Best cream cheese and ricotta.  Better than dairy.

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Bakes fries with homemade cashew cheese, Beyond Meat, guacamole, and all the fixings.

Best Meat Alternatives

Beyond Meat is so convincing my daughter won’t eat it.  Try their burgers.  Try the ground.  The “chicken” is just okay.  But the beef alternatives are great.  Oh, and try the sausage!

Bob’s Mill TVP.  GMO soy will cause problems.  GMO anything will cause problems.  Soy stops bone loss and balances estrogen levels while supplying calcium and vitamin D.  Bob’s is GMO free and it cooks up in chilies or soups or nachos or whatever just like ground meat.  And it’s super cheap.

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Gardein anything.  Lord, they are good.  Always vegan.  Crab cakes (put in hoagies with homemade slaw), fish sticks (with French fries), meatballs (with Victoria Vegan sauce and pasta), meatloaf (with mashed potatoes and corn), and so much more.

I do tend to say away from the super processed, large company owned, GMO, and not-so-vegan brands like Morningstar and Boca.  Quorn is the best for chicken flavor and they are coming out with vegan options as we speak.

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The “I’ll never go vegan”ers. 

My granddaughter is funny.  Independent.  Funny.  “I don’t like vegan food.”  “I don’t want vegan food.”

We then name off dozens of foods that she likes or loves that are vegan.  Most people do not realize how easy it is and how many things are already vegan or have a vegan-ready counterpart next to it at the store or in your pantry.  Maybe we need a new name for vegan food.  How about GOOD FOOD.  I’m a good foodist.  And with the help of innovative new chefs and companies, it’s that much easier to get good food on the table.

 

The Happy Cheese Maker

IMG_20170917_102206We made arrangements to go see Sherry’s farm to pick up our first share of fresh, raw goat’s milk.  Roughly twelve minutes of driving and we were there.  I had no idea that we were so close to the farms in this area.  Goats frolicked here and there as her livestock dog barked.  Our new goat girl’s granddaughter skipped among the Alpines and La Manchas.  Piglets ran around in an enclosure in the back.  Chickens and ducks freely marched about.  Their wild vegetable garden looked prolific and baby goats looked for someone to give them a bottle.  We went home with two and a half gallons of delicious, frothy milk after lots of goat hugs.

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20170920_160636It has been two and a half years since I have made cheese.  I used to turn our own goat’s milk into a rich Gouda,  sharp cheddar, creamy chevre, and many other wheels of wonderful cheese.  I was surprised how quickly it all came back to me as I slowly stirred the curds.  A two pound wheel of cheddar is drying on the counter.

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We may not be able to have goats in the city but we can certainly help out another Farmgirl and get all the cheese we want in the process!

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Here are a few links to my blog posts about making cheese;

Soft cheese and Hard Cheese

Thanks for reading and helping me keep this blog alive and thriving.  Happy Autumn!

How to Make Easy Farmer Cheese (and supporting your local farmer)

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A ex dairy farmer who then has to begin purchasing from other farmers has a small heart attack when billed.  Never mind the cost of sweet feed, alfalfa, minerals, milking implements, and boyfriends, we don’t see all that, we just hear $8 for a half a gallon of fresh, frothy, raw milk.  $6 for free roaming delicious eggs.  “Oy, I used to get that for free!” I yelp. (Of course it wasn’t free…)

Okay, so yes, for a buck fifty you can get subpar, pasteurized, feed lot cow’s milk.  Some cheap eggs from chickens that don’t move…ever.

Now, relooking at costs.  I made 3 cups of fresh farmer cheese last night for the cost of the milk.  $8.  If we consider how much 4 ounces of goat cheese or farmer cheese costs in the store (around $5) we can easily see the deal we are getting.  This constitutes the protein in a meal, so replaces meat.  Eggs make several meals and additions to recipes, making it a very economical meal, even at $6.

The key is changing one’s perspective that farm food is the same as supermarket food.  It is much higher nutritionally and much more delicious.  It provides more meals at home around the table.  And helps a farmer.  We are a dying breed.  Women farmers represent 20% of all farmers.  But with up to 5000 farmers calling it quits (or losing, like we did) we need to support local agriculture.  We just have to.  I’ll be joining the ranks of women farmers again but I cannot have goats in the city we are moving to so no milking…yet.  In the meantime, I will support a farmer.  It is well worth the extra few bucks.

Here is an easy recipe for farmer cheese.  You can use store bought milk but if you can get a half gallon of raw, please do so.

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Pour 1/2 gallon of milk into pot and heat over medium heat stirring often until just boiling.  Turn off heat.

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Pour in 1/4 cup of homemade red wine vinegar (click here for the recipe), other vinegar, or lemon juice.  Watch the curds separate from the whey.  If needed add another 1/4 cup.  The red wine vinegar makes a pretty color.

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Once separated, pour into a colander lined with good cheesecloth.  I mean it, spring for the good cheesecloth.  (Geez, I don’t even have clothes pins anymore.  I am starting my homesteading journey again from scratch!  I used a headband to secure the cheesecloth to the colander.)  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sea salt over cheese.

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Fold sides together and hang off the side of the pot for 2-12 hours.

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When finished, remove cheesecloth while placing cheese in bowl.  From here you have a very plain tasting cheese.

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Here I added 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning.  1 teaspoon of truffle salt.  A drizzle of garlic oil.  1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  A dash of sugar.  Use hands to combine and crumble.

Other ideas would be sugar and cranberries, and orange zest.  Or minced garlic and chives.  Use your imagination!  Put in enchiladas, lasagna, in salad, on crackers topped with jam.  Homemade cheese is an easy homesteading staple!

Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading School Returns

Wanted: a cheese press

“You got the bug again?” Lisa asked over text when I inquired whether our friend still has Nancy’s old one.

“No.  It never left.”

I have friends with small dairies producing delicious milk for a great price.  Why shouldn’t I still make cheese?  Oh, because I don’t have a cheese press!!  Easily remedied, hopefully.

Doug and I enjoyed a cheese flight along with an amazing California red blend yesterday.  A slightly tangy semi-soft cheese, a creamy brie from France, a sharp and heavenly cheese with truffles nestled in its layers, a mild gouda.  All exceptional.  I loved creating cheeses and I believe we can still do that here in our humble apartment with the same success or even more so for the constant environment and beautifully laid out kitchen.

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I will still be canning this year.  I have plans for the wall behind the dining room table.  By autumn’s end it will be a wall of shelving filled with colorful spectacles of jeweled canning jars filled with winter sustenance.

Pots of vegetables and herbs will line my west facing balcony.  I am just homesteading on a smaller scale.

Someone asked at the sustainability fair if I teach homesteading classes.  I said I used to but why can’t I still?  I am just homesteading on a smaller level, the same as many folks.  Let’s start classes again!  What do you want to learn?  How to make cheese?  How to can produce?  How do dehydrate?  How to freeze?  How to garden in pots on the balcony?  How to….the sky’s the limit.  Your place or mine.  Let’s do it.

The Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading School is back.

 

 

 

 

How to Make Fabulous Fondue

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When I was little my mother let me and my sisters and brothers pick our favorite food for our birthday dinner.  Mine was always fondue.  I never did make it as my kids were growing up.  I always had a fondue pot but never knew a good recipe or felt I had the time to prepare it.  So last night when the fondue pot was brought out I felt like a little kid!  Pat and Margie also let me write down her mother’s recipe for perfect fondue.  And oh my, it was delicious!  Since fondue is a special way to celebrate (their daughter flew in from New York to surprise Margie for her birthday) they let me share the recipe with you too!

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Pour 2 cups of white wine (Pat used Chardonnay) into the fondue pot with 3 cloves of minced garlic and let simmer until fragrant.

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My job was to cut up a day old baguette into chunks.

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Pat poured just under a 1/2 cup of Kirschwasser (cherry brandy) into a measuring cup and whisked in 5 tablespoons of corn starch and set aside.

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16 ounces of Swiss Emmentaler was sliced.

8 ounces of Swiss cheese slices were at the ready.

And the real treat was 7 ounces of Gruyere.

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These were all slowly added to the pot.  A chopstick was used to blend.

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The measuring cup of cornstarch and Kirschwasser was poured in and blended well.  This is stirred until thickened and bubbly.  A good dash of paprika and white pepper was added.

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At the very end a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda is added to fluff up and perfect the fondue.

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Serve with a fresh salad, wine, and good friends!

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The Little Dairy (a homesteader’s necessity!)

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Every homestead would benefit from a goat.  These dog-sized animals come with mega personality and fun while giving delicious milk for the homestead dairy cupboard along with chocolate milk, cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, and ice cream!  Goats don’t cost much more than a dog does and the investment is paid back in crazy antics (like jumping 360’s off of a pile of tires), snuggles, and food.

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Goats are great with kids and teach them about farming.  There are many cities and counties that allow goats now.  There are many types of goats to choose from ranging from Nigerian Dwarves to Saanens.  Dwarves give one to two quarts a day of rich milk while Saanens and Nubians can give one to two gallons a day!  Not too shabby.

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I love cows but they are hard to sneak into the city and they eat a lot.  Our Isabelle gives more than a gallon a day.  It is illegal to sell raw, nutrient rich, frothy, delicious milk.  However, a share is a good way to help other families receive a bit of milk for themselves. Our shareholders pay a small buy-in fee and a weekly boarding fee which entitles them to a set amount of milk.  So, Isabelle essentially belongs to four families!

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Our household still has plenty for cooking, drinking, and putting into vast amounts of coffee before farm chores.  I also make two pounds of cheese a week.  Today I will make Manchego aged in truffle oil.  I expected to have Elsa in milk too (she is doing great at her new home, by the way) so I was going to use Elsa’s milk for our needs and cheesemaking and Isabelle could supply shares.  But our plans never work out quite like we think!  Isabelle is still giving us all we need and lots of kisses as bonus.

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Goats are one of the only things that pay for themselves on this farm!  They do better in pairs.  Isabelle is a little tired of being followed around by her two month old sheep brothers, adorable as they are.  We traded Isabelle’s doeling for a doeling from Poppy, our friend Jenet’s goat, who is due in a few weeks.  We are hoping for a girl!  Then a little two day old Nubian will join our humble homestead.  If not, then we will be on the lookout for a companion for Isabelle and future milker.

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The other side of having a delightful goat that gives sustenance to a farm is the time involved.  Every day, rain or shine, or blizzard, Isabelle is milked at 8:00 in the morning and 8:00 in the evening.  Every.  Single.  Day.  This halts one’s spur-of-the-moment plans, but it is worth it.

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This year, I have been cutting the rounds of cheese in half so that I have one pound wheels.  One to keep, one to give fine folks that donate to our farm.  I blended white wax with red wax and found it created a lovely pink patina to cover my cheeses with.  I love it.  My favorite color. I think it will be my new thing.

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I simply cannot imagine a homestead without a goat.  A homestead necessity!

How to Make Hard Cheese (step by step and sooo worth it!)

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My first batch of cheese this year was started with Miss Isabelle’s delicious, frothy, rich milk.  I am going to show you how to make a variation of Guido’s Cheese from the book “Home Cheese Making” by Rikki Carroll.  I chose this one to demonstrate because it is forgiving and versatile, a perfect first hard cheese.  I gleefully fed my friends it last summer along with red wine and homemade pickles.  It is truly delightful to make your own cheese.  All winter, after I had run out I begrudgingly bought cheese.  Oh, the horror! (expensive stuff) This year I will produce enough to put up for winter and include it in our milk share from our farm so others can try it too.

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First put 1/2 teaspoon of rennet in a 1/2 cup of un-chlorinated water and set aside.

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Pour 16 cups of milk (2 gallons of cow’s, goat’s, raw, or store-bought) into a large pot and bring temperature to 90 degrees over medium heat, stirring often.

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Add one package of Thermophilic starter (I get mine from Buckley’s Homestead Supply in Colorado Springs or Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora or you can order online.) and stir well. Put lid on and let sit for 25-30 minutes.

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Stir in diluted rennet and let sit for another 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes cut the curds in a checkerboard pattern with a long knife.  It is not an exact science, just slice through the yogurt-like mass every inch or so in one direction, then in the other direction, then kind of sideways.

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Now here comes the part about patience and the reason I didn’t think I would enjoy cheese making, but I do love it and I do love cheese, so this here is a labor of love (for cheese).  Stirring near constantly we have to finagle the stove so that we can raise the temperature one degree every minute for thirty minutes.  Most other cheeses we have to do this in a sink of water and add copious amounts of hot water to achieve this effect, but this one allows us to use the stove and cheat a little.

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Now I am at 120 degrees.

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I prepared a mold with cheesecloth and secured it with clothes pins.

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I place a strainer over another pot (to catch the whey) and pour the cheese into the strainer.

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Pack the cheese into the mold.

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Fold over the top of the cheesecloth and place a 3-4 pound weight on top.  If you are using a cheese press this can just be three inches of water in an empty milk carton hanging from the end of the handle.  You may as well get a cheese press, this activity is rather addicting!  You could use a cantaloupe or something, I suppose, as the weight.  The mold just needs to be a cylinder with holes in it.

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Now, we unwrap the cheese after fifteen minutes or so, turn it over, rewrap, and reset the weight.  The book tells us to do this several times at the beginning then a few more times over 4-6 hours.  The first time I made this I had just gotten the thing wrapped when I heard I needed to be at my son’s wedding three hours earlier than I thought.  So, left it and came back, turned it a few times, it was fine.  This time I had to go to Elizabeth to drop the baby off to her daddy so the cheese got turned three times over 4 hours.  It wasn’t as compact and sharp looking as store cheese, but it would do.  It was pretty tall so I actually cut it in half.  We’ll find out in a few weeks if that was alright to do.  After the four to six hours let sit under the weight for 24 hours.

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Make a brine using one pound of sea salt to one gallon of near boiling water.  Let cool down.  Maybe plan ahead and make it the night before.  I ought to do this.

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Place cheese in brine and turn every so often for 24 hours.

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Place on paper towels and keep in cool, dry place (like the cheese fridge) for 3 weeks, turning a few times a day at first (if you remember!) and then once a day or so after.  After two days you could soak the cheese in red wine for 24 hours then continue the drying process.  After three weeks, it is ready.  Just in time to celebrate summer!

The Kitchen Counter Cheese Cave

I was pleasantly surprised last year that not only did I enjoy making cheese, it also turned out amazing.  I usually do not enjoy tedious tasks that take a long time, but I rather enjoyed the process and definitely the result!  The problem is finding a place to store the wheels of cheese where they can properly age and develop flavors without being eaten by mice or molding.

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The proper temperature for aging cheese is 55 degrees with a bit of humidity.  I thought our old coal chute in the basement in the last house would be good but it was very dusty, had mice, and was sixty-five degrees all summer. I read that one could use a mini-fridge and I borrowed my friend’s.  The problem was that by keeping it on the highest setting to attain fifty-five degrees, the small freezer part kept leaking on the cheese.

I found a refrigerator on Craigslist that was cheap because it didn’t cool any lower than fifty degrees.  Jack pot!  After placing a bowl of water in there with the cheese I created quite a nice environment.  Then we moved.  The jostling of the fridge on the trailer made it begin to work!  It froze the cheese.  When it defrosted,  it began to mold something awful and the chickens were gifted wheels of really stinky cheese.

We tried a cooler with an ice pack.  We tried the back guest room.  No where was quite right.

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I thought about it all winter.  Fifty-five degrees.  What keeps its temperature at fifty-five degrees?  And then I recalled the wine fridge that sat atop the counter at our friends’ house.  Fifty-five degrees for good red wine.  Holy smokes, I was excited.  Wine and cheese at the ready all summer.

We found one at the hardware store on sale, no less.  I am borrowing another cheese press this summer to make more cheese.  I’ll have two going at a at time.  Manchego, a light Italian cheese, Parmesan, sharp Cheddar….oh my.  I’ve missed my own cheese.  Purchasing it in the store is sadly lacking.  The girls are due in four weeks!  Fresh milk is on the way!